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Fairness, incentives, and contractual choices

  • Fehr, Ernst
  • Schmidt, Klaus M.

This paper examines how the presence of a non-negligible fraction of reciprocally fair actors changes the provision of incentives through contracts. We provide experimental evidence that principals have a strong preference for less complete contracts although the standard self-interest model predicts that they should prefer the more complete contract. Our theoretical analysis shows that fairness concerns can explain this preference for less completeness. Fair principals keep their promises which provides strong pecuniary incentives through an incomplete contract. Selfish principals free-ride and exploit the agents. Counter-intuitively, selfish agents are induced to work by an incomplete contract while fair agents shirk.

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File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6V64-40PGPXP-18/2/98ba3bb4a9214a65b4d263c24274b975
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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal European Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 44 (2000)
Issue (Month): 4-6 (May)
Pages: 1057-1068

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Handle: RePEc:eee:eecrev:v:44:y:2000:i:4-6:p:1057-1068
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/eer

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  1. Dufwenberg, M. & Kirchsteiger, G., 1998. "A Theory of Sequential Reciprocity," Discussion Paper 1998-37, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  2. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 1997. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device: Experimental Evidence," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(4), pages 833-860, July.
  3. Agell, Jonas & Lundborg, Per, 1993. "Theories of Pay and Unemployment: Survey Evidence from Swedish Manufacturing Firms," Working Paper Series 380, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  4. Armin Falk & Urs Fischbacher, 2001. "A Theory of Reciprocity," CESifo Working Paper Series 457, CESifo Group Munich.
  5. Jacob K. Goeree & Charles A. Holt, . "Asymmetric Inequality Aversion and Noisy Behavior in Alternating-Offer Bargaining Games," Virginia Economics Online Papers 329, University of Virginia, Department of Economics.
  6. repec:dgr:kubcen:199837 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. Bewley, Truman F, 1995. "A Depressed Labor Market as Explained by Participants," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(2), pages 250-54, May.
  8. Andrew E. Clark and Andrew J. Oswald, . "Satisfaction and Comparison Income," Economics Discussion Papers 419, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
  9. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1998. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition and Cooperation," CEPR Discussion Papers 1812, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000143, David K. Levine.
  11. Gary E Bolton & Axel Ockenfels, 1997. "A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1889, David K. Levine.
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